Living with Breast Cancer – Part 2

OH, where to start? Do I start this at the day I found the lump? Or the day I got the mammogram? Or the day I had the ultrasound when the tech got the radiologist while I was still on the table? Or the day I had the biopsy? Or the day I got the call that it is cancer? Or the day I got my first port placed? Or my first chemo? Or the day my hair started falling out? Or the last day of neoadjuvant chemo? Or my lumpectomy? Or the day the drains came out? Or the day the port was removed? Or my first day of radiation? Or my last day of radiation? Or the day I was told the cancer was back? Or the day my second port was placed? Or the first chemo for metastatic breast cancer? Or the day I had the reaction to chemo? Or today?

So very many days to choose from. And that doesn’t count the 3,000 days in between finding the lump and today. The day I lost my job. The day I went on disability. The days of lost sleep due to steroids. The days I stayed in bed, too worn out to even sit on the couch in the living room. The days I’ve traveled. The days I’ve coached at tournaments. The days I’ve gardened. The days spent in doctors offices or cancer clinics. The day my son graduated high school. The day my friends got married. Birthdays and anniversaries. The day my friend lost his wife due to metastatic breast cancer, and six months later, speaking at his funeral due to pancreatic cancer.

Living with metastatic breast cancer is a dual edged sword. I want to hurry and check everything off my bucket list, making plenty of memories to leave with family and friends after I die. I don’t have the physical abilities I once had, so that option is OUT. If I hurry too much, try to pack too much into a short period of time, I WILL pay for it, in the form of a day (or days) in bed. I look healthy (pink cheeks, bright eyes, and shoulder-length hair); my cancer cannot be seen from the outside. I’ve been judged for parking in handicapped spots “because you are walking”. What people don’t realize is that the cancer is in my spine, ribs, pelvis, and arm and leg bones. Sometimes I walk as if I was 80-90 years old, slowly shuffling and hunched over. I minimize the use of narcotics as pain control because I have discovered I am hugely susceptible to the constipating effects of those medications.

I’ve seen several posts and blogs that compare life with a disease to having a certain number of spoons available each day. Lets say it takes one spoon to shower, another to get dressed. Two spoons to go grocery shopping for an hour, and four spoons to drive 30 minutes to attend a church service, six spoons to walk around for three hours (shopping, an amusement park, a fair), one spoon to prepare a meal, eight spoons for an evening out socializing. If you only have 10 spoons a day, you see how you your day’s activity can be seriously limited.

And yet, I still am LIVING! Over the past four years since mets diagnosis, I’ve learned to moderate my activity. I plan ahead – if I have a busy day coming up, I rest the day before and day after. I’ve learned to say “no” in a variety of ways. I build more space into my schedule and slow my pace. It doesn’t always work; I have a “Type A” personality. That doesn’t stop me from working to improve who I am, and really, isn’t that the definition of living?

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